Reconciliation Week: Truth-telling, story sharing & reconciliation

“Be Brave. Make Change” is the theme of National Reconciliation Week 2022, which challenges all Australians to stand together and bravely confront the unfinished business of reconciliation.

Reconciliation Week, which occurs from 27 May to 3 June, presents the opportunity to learn about, reflect upon, and acknowledge the trauma and suffering of the Stolen Generations and its impact on survivors, their families and communities.

Thursday 26 May was National Sorry Day. A day to acknowledge our true shared history and the continued impacts this history has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

One significant step towards reconciliation and healing is the formal apology and acknowledgement of harm given by Susan Pearce, the NSW Health Secretary, to the survivors, families and communities of the Stolen Generations. This apology will drive further organisational discussions and determine how we can continue to honour the resilience and acknowledge the injustice experienced by Aboriginal peoples. Listen to the apology here.

“By truly listening and understanding what has happened in the past, we can move towards a more equitable and respectful future. As health staff, this knowledge helps us to design and deliver more equitable and culturally responsive services for Aboriginal people,” said Tim Croft, SESLHD Aboriginal Health Unit Manager.    

“Reconciliation emphasises the importance of moving forward as a nation around truth telling. We can begin to do this by providing Aboriginal people the opportunity to have a voice and share their story. As a District, we need to understand where we have been, and where we need to go to provide that healing."

SESLHD continues to work to close the gap in Aboriginal health outcomes, promoting staff knowledge and cultural sensitivity to create a supportive workforce. The Addressing Racism Strategy is just one way that SESLHD is supporting diversity and the importance of standing together to work towards a reconciled future.

One leading example of how our services are acknowledging the direct impact of forced removal practices and policy on Aboriginal children, families, and communities, is the written apology from SESLHD's Violence Abuse and Neglect (VAN) Team, which is shared below. 

On this, the occasion of Sorry Day 2022, the SESLHD VAN team acknowledges the pain and suffering caused by the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. We pay our respects to the Stolen Generations and their descendants, for their suffering and their loss, and for their resilience and survival.

We are deeply sorry for the ongoing trauma and pain brought about by separation from family, the confusion of having culture and identity denied, and abuse experienced in foster homes and institutions. We acknowledge that non-Aboriginal health workers and health services played a major role in policies of forced child removal and assimilation and that these policies have an intergenerational impact on the health and social wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families.

We renew our commitment to reconciliation to ensure that the wrongs committed are never repeated. We recognise that to build partnerships grounded in truth and respect we need to acknowledge the difficult parts of our history, the harm caused by health services and the ongoing impact of forced removal and assimilation on our nation’s first peoples.

We commit to SESLHD VAN services engaging in truth telling, deep listening and working in partnership with Aboriginal people, communities and staff to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are represented in our decision making, our activities and our future directions.

Together, we will ensure that our actions contribute to healing and reconciliation and not to further harm, that they respect the diverse needs and aspirations of Aboriginal people and contribute to healing for survivors. Above all, we recognise the significance that family and community play in providing children with a sense of safety, belonging and resilience and will therefore work towards providing health services that support Aboriginal children to remain connected to family and culture.


Staff member and guest at Prince of Wales Hospital's smoking ceremony